No one loves the messenger who brings bad news.Sophocles
A problem or a symptom?
“I need to quit vaping,” said a potential client to me recently. How wonderful, right? This person has recognized that they have a problem and is willing to seek outside resources in order to change it. I’ve got plenty of tools that would help him get that done in a few short sessions and he’s already bought into the idea of coaching, so the sales process is super simple.
Many coaches would be stoked to have such a clear problem to work through with a client. And there I am with my mind churning through different goal setting frameworks and behavioral modification techniques that would get him where he says he wants to go. Imagine his surprise when I told him that I don’t really do that kind of thing.
Why? Why would I choose not to help this person get the thing they want? Because what they want to resolve is a symptom. It’s akin to somebody asking for
We’ve all got plenty of these symptoms that we would like resolved. We eat too much, drink too much, don’t have enough friends, don’t read enough, want to be more motivated, want to get more dates, etc.
We’ve all been through the process of taking the metaphorical aspirin for these symptoms. We go on a diet, we do a month of no drinking, we go to meetup groups, we read a book, we watch a motivational speaker, we learn the ‘pickup’ game. And a few weeks/months later we are right back where we started. We’ve got more knowledge but we haven’t resolved the problem underneath the symptom.
The temptation of a quick fix
Isn’t it comforting to think that there is a 6 step process that would create the life you’ve always wanted? You could get everything you want, all in the time it takes to answer a few simple questions!
Isn’t it tempting to believe those marketers who tell us exactly what we want to hear? That they can solve our problem with their trade-marked patented process, and it will be quick and painless?
There’s only one trouble – these things aren’t magic pills and they don’t do anything on their own. They are like tools, offering us an opportunity to build a skill. And these skills are important and potentially life-changing, but only if we use them on a regular basis to resolve the underlying problems within
Don’t shoot the messenger
What if we took these symptoms and viewed them as indicators of a deeper problem? What if, instead of trying to fix the headache as quickly as possible we spent a little bit of time figuring out what caused it?
Let’s circle back to that potential client I talked about in the beginning, the one that wanted to hire me to help them stop vaping. The one that I told ‘I don’t really do that kind of thing’. Because I had a very similar conversation with them as I’m talking about here. When I invited them to think about the other symptoms that were showing up in their life they were able to come up with a laundry list. Not being able to hold down a job, drinking too much, feeling really judgmental of other people, etc.
We talked about how, if they were ready to be the intrepid explorer of their own experience, that we could work to identify that actual problem that was causing all of these symptoms. Five challenging sessions later and they have stopped vaping, they’ve got a job with a high-income potential, they’ve stopped drinking, and they are starting to truly believe that the sky is the limit when it comes to happiness. We never did talk about strategies to stop vaping, but they were able to take care of that on their own, and that is powerful.
While this might have happened fairly quickly for this particular client, they will attest to the fact that it wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t painless. There is still plenty of work to do in order to make sure that these changes aren’t just a flash in the pan, but at the end of the day, this client is creating the life they truly want because they were willing to stop focusing on the symptoms. They made a fundamental choice to do the harder work of fixing the problem in order to get all the things they wanted.
A look at your life
What are the symptoms you are seeing show up in your own life? Would it be worth it to start working on the problem underneath all of those? Are you ready to be the intrepid explorer of your own experience in order to create a life that lives up to your expectations?